New Truck on the Block. The new Toyota Tundra is the first full-size pickup truck from a Japanese manu- facturer, challenging longstanding incumbents from Ford, GM and Dodge. Available in 4X2 and 4X4 2-door Regular cab and 4-door Access cab models, the Tundra is offered with a 190 horsepower 3.4 litre DOHC V6 and a 245 horsepower 4.7 litre DOHC V8. Prices range from $23,915 to $42,915.
First full-size Toyota pickup challenges leaders
This may sound like an exaggeration, but the new Toyota Tundra pickup truck is probably the most significant vehicle Toyota has ever introduced in North America.
The market for full-size pickups in Canada and the United States is huge. Ford and GM’s full-size pickup trucks consistently rank as the top-selling vehicles of any kind in both countries, and have done for decades. The Tundra is the first full-size pickup truck from a Japanese manufacturer to seriously challenge these long-entrenched domestic incumbents.
The now-discontinued mid-sized Toyota T-100 pickup truck wasn’t really a true competitor in this class. It didn’t have a V8 engine, and didn’t offer the payload capacity or the towing power to match full-size competitors, or even mid-size competitors. In addition, it was priced too high for the marketplace.
The Tundra, however, is aimed squarely at the heart of the pickup truck market where full-size 1/2 ton 4X2 and 4×4 regular and extended cab pickups are the most popular models. The Tundra offers comparable towing capacities, payload capacities, interior room, and comfort and safety features with its major competitors.
The Tundra even looks like the Ford F-150, a vehicle that could be considered the benchmark in this class. A note of trivia: Toyota had originally planned to call their pickup the ‘T-150’, but backed down after Ford objected.
Tundra Comparable with Competitors
1/2 ton Tundra pickups are available with V6 and V8 engines in regular cab and extended cab (Access cab) bodystyles with 4X2 or part-time 4X4 2-speed transfer cases.
Tundra V6 models have a 3.4 litre DOHC 24 valve V6 engine which develops 190 horsepower @ 4800 rpm and 220 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm. The real muscle and the real market however, lies with the optional 4.7 litre DOHC 32 valve V8 engine which offers 245 horsepower at 4800 rpm and 315 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm. This is the only twin overhead cam engine in this class.
Toyota’s V8 compares well with its competitor’s standard V8 powerplants. Toyota’s 4.7 litre V8 has more horsepower and torque than Ford’s standard 4.6 litre V8 and Dodge’s 5.2 litre V8 engine, but less horsepower than General Motors new 4.8 litre V8 – although, it has more torque.
The Tundra’s towing capacity ranges from 2336 kg (5150 lb.) to 3265 kg (7200 lb.). This is comparable with the F-150’s maximum trailer weight of 7200 lb. with the 4.6 litre V8, and the Ram’s maximum towing capacity of 7400 lb. with the 5.2 litre V8. (Towing capacity for the Silverado was not available.)
The Tundra’s payload capacity ranges from 633 kg (1396 lb.) to 863 kg (1902 lb.), again comparable with its half ton competitors with base V8 engines.
However, Ford, Chevrolet, GMC and Dodge all offer bigger, optional V8 engines which increase their pickup’s towing and payload capacities.
4-speed Automatic standard
All Tundra’s have a standard column-mounted, 4-speed automatic transmission – a manual transmission is not available. This is unusual in this class. Most pickups have a standard 5-speed manual transmission. I suspect Toyota will lose some customers because there are those who prefer a manual transmission for work-related driving chores.
The Tundra 4X4’s part-time four-wheel-drive system is engaged with a floor lever on base models and dash-mounted push-buttons on Access cab V8 models. Both High and Low Range gears are offered.
The Tundra’s suspension is fairly conventional: an independent front double wishbone/coil spring suspension and rear leaf springs. Brakes are front discs/rear drums with 4-wheel ABS as standard equipment. The Tundra’s large 12.5 inch front brakes with 4-piston calipers are tops in their class, according to Toyota, and the rear drum brakes have a load-sensing proportioning and bypass valve that automatically adjusts rear brake bias for consistent braking performance.
The short box on Access Cab models is 1934 mm (just under 6.5 feet) and the long box on Regular Cab models is 2484 mm (just over eight feet) – again fairly standard. The double-wall cargo beds have four tie-down hooks, a removeable locking tailgate, and a cargo light. Optional are polyurethane bedliners, bed mat, and vinyl tonneau covers.
Toyota claims the Tundra has the stiffest frame in its class because its one-piece reinforced rails are stiffer than the more common multiple piece welded frame rails. As well, the Tundra’s frame under the cab has a rolled lip which increases the rigidity of the rails and reduces vibrations transmitted to the cab. Also, there are eight cross members to enhance the rigidity further.
Regular cab models have a standard three person bench seat, while Access cabs come with a standard three-person 60/40 split front bench seat with folding armrest, and a forward-facing 60/40 split folding rear bench seat with folding armrest and a storage bin under the seat. Cloth front bucket seats and leather front Captain’s chairs are optional.
As the shift lever for the automatic transmission is on the column and there’s no center floor console, there is sufficient legroom for a centre front passenger.
The rear seatback is fairly vertical, but there is adequate legroom. And there are two height-adjustable rear head restraints, a feature not found on many pickup trucks.
The rear doors of the Access cab are hinged from the rear – they swing out towards the rear of the truck. Though they have outside door handles, for safety, they cannot be opened until the front doors are opened. All four-door pickups with rear-hinged rear doors have the same arrangement.
The rear doors make getting in and out of the rear compartment much easier than with two-door or three-door pickups. However, care must be taken when opening and closing the doors. When opening the doors, the front doors must be opened first, but when closing the doors, the rear doors must be closed first – otherwise the doors will bang into each other.
The Tundra’s interior is well-finished, simple in its design, and controls are easy to use. Most of the dash controls are in a central, black control panel including large rotary dials for the heater, and an AM/FM/cassette/CD with simple white-on-black numerals. Lights and wipers are on slim, easy-to-use stalks. Round instruments are backlit for easy viewing, including a tachometer with a 5400 rpm redline.
The center armrest has a huge storage bin with lots of room for CD’s, and two integrated cupholders. There are two more slide-out cupholders in the dash, two 12 V power outlets, and a key-operated on/off switch for the passenger airbag.
My test truck was a 4X4 Access Cab V8, one of the most popular engine and bodystyle combinations.
I found the Tundra to be unusually quiet and refined for a pickup truck. The body felt solid and well-built, with minimal vibrations from the body and suspension on both paved and unpaved road surfaces. Interior noise levels were very low, and the Tundra was extremely easy to drive. The standard variable-assist steering was surprisingly responsive, and the 4.7 litre V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission were quiet, powerful and responsive.
From the driver’s seat, there is a definate feeling of quality about the way it looks and operates. Compared with its domestic competitor’s, the Tundra is the least ‘truck-like’, and is comfortable enough to use as everyday transportation.
Of course, like every full-size pickup truck, it has a high step-in height, and is difficult to park in standard parking spaces. If the bed is unloaded, care must be taken on wet or icy roads because its lightweight rear-end can cause the rear driving wheels to lose traction.
My test vehicle, a 4X4 Access Cab V8, was priced at $35,995. Its equivalent competitors include the Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 Supercab SWB 4 door pickup ($33,695.00); the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LS 4X4 Extended Cab SWB 3dr Pickup ($33,945.00) (at press time, the new 4 door Silverado was unavailable); and the Dodge Ram 1500 SLT 4X4 Quad Cab SWB ($34,115).
In general, the Tundra’s competitors are slightly larger in overall dimensions: the F-150 is 32 cm longer and 10 cm wider, the Silverado is 38 cm longer and 9 cm wider; and the Ram is 29 cm longer and 10 cm wider. In addition, the Tundra’s competitors are slightly less expensive, and better-equipped with such additional features as air conditioning and power windows.
The Toyota’s benefits include a better standard audio system, standard rear head restraints, a standard automatic transmission, a standard 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty, and as I mentioned a more refined V8 powertrain and quieter cabin.
Toyota Tundra manufacturer’s suggested retail prices are as follows: 4X2 Regular cab $23,915; 4X2 Access Cab V8 $32,115; 4X4 Regular cab V6 $28,380; 4X4 Access cab V6 $34,495; 4X4 Access cab V8 $35,995; 4X4 Access cab V8 Limited Package $42,915.
Standard equipment on base 4X2 V6 models includes 4-speed automatic transmission, front bench seat, dual airbags, variable power-assist steering, AM/FM/cassette, vinyl front bench seat, digital clock, water temperature gauge, 245/70R-16 inch tires and a full-size spare tire.
Standard equipment on my $35,995 4X4 Access cab V8 test truck included automatic transmission, pushbutton 4WD, split front bench seat with storage/armrest, AM/FM/CD stereo, variable intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, swing-out rear windows, and sliding rear window.
Though made by a Japanese company, it should be noted that the Tundra is built in Indiana, U.S.A., and is not sold anywhere else but North America.